Poteau Christmas from the Past
Poteau Christmas Traditions
Like a scene out of an old time Christmas movie, downtown Poteau has always thrived during the holiday seasons.
During the earliest days, from the late 1800's through the 1910's, the traditions were centered around family. People would gather in each others homes to sing traditional Christmas songs as well as popular hymns. The large scale decorations that we see in later years didn't exist. In fact, the modern form of Christmas didn't begin to exist until after the Civil War. Christmas, prior to the 1920's, was still in it's infancy. Besides singing and the Christmas parties, people would gather in churches to worship, exchange cards, and, on Christmas eve, exchange hand-made gifts. Those few that decorated evergreens used items such as nuts, strings of popcorn or beads, oranges, lemons, candies and home-made trinkets.
Christmas in Poteau began to take on a life of it's own during the 1920's. By this time, much of modern Poteau's downtown was built and shopping was at an all time high. Businesses would offer catalog orders or merchandise in store. Many of the businesses also featured evergreen "Christmas Trees" and other commercially inspired decorations. Santa Claus would make several appearances throughout town. The old Christmas traditions had began to blend with the newer commercial Christmas. This created a blend of family oriented celebrations and the decadence that came to represent the "roaring 20's".
By the 1940's, residents began to decorate the streets in style. Street parades were formed and became one of the most popular attractions to the area. Long strands of garland were ran across the streets. By now, Christmas lights and more modern decorations appeared.
Later, the strands of garland running across the street would be replaced with newer, more ornate decorations. Up until the early 1980's, Christmas in downtown was a very special time of year.
Following the Victory Theater fire and other fires of 1981-1982, the downtown area saw a decline. Many of the ornate decorations were replaced with simple light pole decorations.
Within recent years, Historic Downtown Poteau, inc. has made a concentrated effort to bring back the magic of Christmas to downtown Poteau. Today, you can see the synchronized light show, the laser light show, all of the store windows lit up, and several other exciting features.
If you have a favorite Christmas tradition, or want to share your Holiday memories, please leave us a comment below!